During the 5th century BCE, Old Comedy was the most prevalent comedic form in Ancient Greece. This was largely due to the success of Athenian playwright, Aristophanes. His plays were frenetic, visual and personal, often containing historical figures. In particular, Aristophanes’ comedies contained automatist utopian themes that were used to satirize various aspects of 5th century Greece, often in Athens. The present essay will first define utopia and the automatist subtype. Then it will explore Aristophanes’ usage of automatist utopian themes in his plays Acharnians and Peace. Specifically, this paper will argue that Aristophanes used themes associated with automatist utopia to satirize war, the excess of the aristocracy, and the ignorance of the lower classes in 5th century Greece.
Before analyzing specific passages from Aristophanic comedy, it is essential to understand the definition of utopia. The word, utopia was invented by author Thomas More in his 1516 book of the same name. More derived the word from the Greek, "ou-topos and eu-topos [which together make]…a place which does not exist, that is not here, but which is also good” (Ruffell 474). This definition is interesting given that many of Aristophanes’ plays take place in 5th century Athens. It suggests that Aristophanes was creating an Athenian world that was better but not based in reality.
This essay will focus predominantly on Aristophanes’ usage of automatist utopian tropes. The principal component of an